Have you ever read a book which moved you so profoundly that you felt, because of it, your own writing would never be the same again?
In the last year, I’ve been lucky enough to read two such books, yet both author and genre-wise they couldn’t have been further apart. The most recent was, Joseph, by John MacKenna, which has just been launched by RTE Radio’s Joe Duffy. MacKenna felt it was about time that Joseph of Nazareth had a voice, and so in this contemporary novel, Joseph – a small-time builder in a small-time town – is for once, the central character.
Beginning the novel, I was unsure of exactly what to expect; but what MacKenna delivered, as a writer at the top of his game, was life to such fully-formed and interesting characters that you felt as if you knew them intimately. When the pages drew to an end, I felt myself slowing down, in the hope of somehow holding onto them – even for just a little longer.
It appears, if the reviews are to be believed, that I’m not the only one who feels this way:
‘A consummately skilled author’ – The Guardian
‘MacKenna is one of our most accomplished writers’ – RTÉ Guide
‘A writer whose emotional success rarely falters’ – The Irish Times
And even Jeffrey Archer had something to say . . .
You can read the full interview on writing.ie by clicking here.
‘It’s been forty years, and memory is the most unreliable of companions, so I can only offer these recollections with the proviso that you take them as the only truth I can call to mind. They’re my truth…’
When his ‘young fellow’ becomes involved in political agitation, and his own marriage begins to fall apart, Joseph of Nazareth must find a way to nurture hope.
The tale of a small-time builder in a small-time town, and his relationship with the charismatic figure he had treated as a son, Joseph humanises an often-overlooked Biblical character, and renders his story one for all time.
Joseph is available in bookshops now, or pick up your copy online here.
Recently, I was approached by the extremely talented writer, Valerie Sirr, as she wanted to tag me in an on-line blogging chain – The Next Big Thing – a way for writers to promote their work-in-progress through a series of questions. Valerie, as I’m sure many of you know, is a Hennessy New Irish Writer winner – and if you’ve already read any of her short stories or poetry, then you’ll see why – if you haven’t yet, then you’ve a treat in store. I’m a big fan of Valerie’s work – and was honoured to accept the challenge along with fellow writers, Celeste Augé and Brian Kirk.
So here goes!
My Next Big Thing:
I’ve been working on my debut novel – a crime fiction thriller set in New York City – for the guts (good choice of word considering my chosen genre!?!) of the last year.
In between, and to keep my writing ego buoyant, I’ve managed to produce a few short stories which have done extremely well – one was Long Listed in the RTÉ Guide/Penguin Ireland Short Story Competition, 2012, another has just been published in the Anthology of Original Writing from Ireland’s Own, 2012 and another was awarded First Prize in the Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Awards, 2012.
What is the working title of your book?
My title, as yet, is not set in stone. I had originally opted for Killer’s Curse. But on advice from a couple of writers I greatly admire, they figure that when I get published, the right cover will give readers an idea of what’s inside, so a title that’s a little less telling would suit better. You noticed the ‘when’ – probably why I value their opinion so much! I’ve a title in mind, but I want to hold it there and savour it for just a little while longer . . .
Where did the idea come from for the book?
Reading a snippet about a killer and how he chose his victims set my mind racing and my fingers typing and they never stopped until I reached the end.
What genre does your book fall under?
It has to be crime fiction. I’ve always been an avid reader and I’d read extensively, but I’ve always LOVED thrillers – in any shape or form – the thrill of guessing what’s going to happen next keeping the pages turning late into the night. Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you don’t and occasionally you come across such a clever twist or turn that you really wish you’d been clever enough to come up with it.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
If I could pick any actor, from any era, to play one of my main characters then the first name to pop into my head as the good guy would be a young, Gregory Peck. Impossible I know, but as a kid I loved watching his movies. My favourite had to be Alfred Hitchcock’s, Spellbound, with the tag line ‘Will he Kiss me or Kill me?’ I was enthralled from start to finish. Maybe it’s time to watch it again? My villain, in this scenario, could have been Paul Newman – those piercing, ice-blue eyes, dismissing any doubts his victims might have.
And if I had to go modern day, then I’d go with Colin Farrell for my good guy. My character isn’t perfect – far from it – but in the end, you trust that whatever obstacles lie in his way and no matter how difficult the choices, he will strive to do the right thing.
Matt Damon would be my choice as my charismatic villain – his role in The Departed sealed the deal on this one!
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Your name appears on a list, along with six others – five are dead!
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
With work and life butting-in, it took me the guts of a year. But I also did quite an amount of research which I could probably have done during the editing stage to get the first draft down on paper much quicker. Swings and roundabouts, I suppose . . .
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Some of my favourite thriller writers include; Alex Barclay, Tess Gerritson, Jeffrey Deaver, John Connolly, Harlan Coben, Jo Nesbo, Tana French, Arlene Hunt and Louise Phillips – so I would be delighted if my novel compared favourably to any one of them. Aiming high, aren’t I?
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always loved books – especially mystery stories – something to keep the brain engaged. That love of books eventually inspired me to write. I started with short stories and poetry. If I’m totally honest here (and shooting myself in the foot in the process!) I prefer to read a book rather than a short story – even by my favourite authors. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them – I most certainly do – but I feel that you’ve invested your time and interest in their story, you’ve got to know the characters, but then suddenly – it’s over! With a book, you know you can become more immersed in their lives and if it’s a good story, then you want that. And that’s why, when this nugget of an idea began to grow, I decided I had to use it to write my debut novel rather than another short story.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
This novel is based in New York City and contains elements of the occult – just a trifling – but enough to appeal to readers who are excited by something a little different to spice up their thriller.
When and how will it be published?
Well, first, I need to finish editing so that my debut novel is as good as it can be. I’ve heard, on more than one occasion, that you only really get one shot with agent’s and publisher’s and I want to ensure that when I come knocking on their door that I have a novel worthy of their time!
And now it’s time to pass the baton. I’d like to tag three diverse writers who are destined for big things: Derek Flynn, Jillian Godsil and Michael Whelan, for The Next Big Thing (Wednesday, 9th January 2013). Keep an eye out for their rising stars!
Derek Flynn is an Irish writer and musician, with a First Class Honours degree in English Literature. He’s been published in a number of publications, including The Irish Times, and was First Runner-Up in the 2011 J. G. Farrell Award for Best Novel-In-Progress. He released his debut album, “Do You Dream At All?” earlier this year. His writing/music blog – ‘Rant, with Occasional Music’ – can be found here: http://derekflynn.wordpress.com and on Twitter, he can be found here: http://twitter.com/#!/derekf03
Jillian Godsil is a writer, blogger and freelance journalist. She went viral in 2010, 2011 and traditional in 2012. She hasn’t looked back (much) since. Her blog is www.jilliangodsil.com and you can follow her on Twitter https://twitter.com/jilliangodsil
Michael J Whelan is a poet, writer & historian living in Tallaght County Dublin. He served as a Peacekeeper with the Irish Defence Forces in South Lebanon and Kosovo during the conflicts in those countries. He was 2nd Place Winner in the Patrick Kavanagh International Poetry Award 2011 & 3rd Place Winner in the Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Awards 2012. He was also short-listed in the Doire Press and Cork Literary Manuscript Competitions and selected for the Eigse Eireann/Poetry Ireland Introductions 2012. He has written books on the Irish involvement in the Congo in the 1960s and Ex British Soldiers in the Irish Army during the Irish War of Independence and Civil War 1913-1924. He is the curator of the Irish Air Corps Aviation Museum and a member of Platform 1 and Virginia House Creative Writers. Follow his blog here: http://michaeljwhelan.wordpress.com/